Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Blogging Odyssey [Retrospective]

Well, it's another year over. Can you believe it? What can you say about 2011? Life is good, but time and the odyssey can feel like a blur. Time certainly flies when you're having fun. Of course, the truth is, it flies by when you're not having fun too, but we like to think of the positives here.

I've taken a few days to myself this week. I've been catching up on Dexter and Breaking Bad. The One To Be Pitied is none too pleased I'm spending less time building closets and more time having fun. Who really deserves the pity here? I've even started a third watercolor painting. We'll see how it goes.

So I thought I'd look back at my plans for 2011 reflecting off my 2010: The Year We Make... A Retrospective Post. I thought it might be fun to look back on the highlights from 2011 and see where I let you down, led you down that rosy path only to see my plans go sadly awry.

Undeniably my biggest failure was taking time to investigate Neon Genesis Evangelion. Trust me. I wanted to cover that series here in the worst way and still plan to do so. My efforts to thoroughly analyze the series developed into a much larger project. Of course, it also led me to my attempts at painting. There's something pure and creative about the experience like writing. It can be at once frustrating and relaxing.

Additionally, I had purchased Wonder Woman. As much as I had such fond memories of it as a child I simply couldn't bring myself to cover it here. Perhaps I'll give it another go down the road, but I definitely wasn't feeling it for Linda Carter in 2011. Gosh, can you imagine that?

Finally, I just never found the time to return to Space:1999 despite my great affection for it. I just never got back to it. I'll make every effort to remedy that in 2012.

Otherwise, I did succeed in a number of areas I had hoped to explore. Let's look back at 2011 to see how the year shaped up here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic.

The Kiss [Love, Science Fiction Style] Part I. Things kicked off in the new year with a kiss science fiction style. Who doesn't love red hot alien errr... kissing? The Kiss [Love, Science Fiction Style] Part I leaves the door open for a sequel. We'll see. Pucker up just in case.

The Notenki Memoirs & Yasuhiro Takeda. The Notenki Memoirs & Yasuhiro Takeda took me into places I never quite expected. It's like an insider's journey into science fiction geekdom. It's a tremendously sincere book that led me to reconsider Neon Genesis Evangelion for a later date. There was much more research required for that epic story than I anticipated and I simply couldn't short change it.

Ergo Proxy. I did however deliver on two entries for the anime series Ergo Proxy. It's a solid endeavor and I urge you to give the neo-noirish sci-fi thriller a look. There will hopefully be more to come on that one. It may not be Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it's solid go nevertheless.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 50+: Greatest TV Influences. The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 50+: Greatest TV Influences was a labor of love in assembly. We did do a number of top 10 lists over the year, but this particular BIG 50 was an unexpected hit and remains a popular staple visit here at the site. I suspect this is one of those entries a lot of folks can relate to from our generation. Anyway, it was good fun to coordinate.

My Neighbor Totoro. As family films go they really don't get more perfect in animation than director Hayao Miyazaki's classic My Neighbor Totoro. Every stoke of paint, every animated cel and every spoken word of dialogue is a like a living, breathing thing of beauty. This is quite simply one of the best family pictures I've ever seen.

Land Of The Lost. Speaking of great TV influences and family fun, we even refreshed our memories by stopping into the Land Of The Lost. Let's just say it has a lot more heart and sincerity than the picture developed for cinemas.

Lost In Space. Speaking of lost, we continued our ongoing exploration of deep space a la the Robinson family and the developing villain that was Dr. Zachary Smith in our Season One look at Lost In Space.

Battle Of The Planets. On the animation front again, my exploration of Neon Genesis Evangelion led me back to my roots when it came to childhood cartoons with a revisit of Battle Of The Planets. I've always got time for the beautiful animation of the Americanized version of Tatsunoko's Gatchaman from Japan. This was art brought to life. The mech designs were out of this world and in some cases, as it was on Battle Of The Planets, they were literally from out of this world.

Voices Of A Distant Star. My never ending discovery of the anime genre always leads me to something special and Voices Of A Distant Star is a sweet, simple love story for those looking for something short and sweet. Director Makoto Shinkai has unfairly been billed the next Hayao Miyazaki or next big thing. He may not be quite ready to hold that title, but he's headed in the right direction and he has a unique storytelling and animating palette all his own.

Lance Henriksen: Profile And Measures Of The Millennium Man. One of the big blogging events of 2011 had to be found at John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Film/TV hosted by John and author Joseph Maddrey regarding the performing arts of one Lance Henriksen. It was an eye-opener. It led me on a trek of sorts into the mind of Frank Black and Millennium for a contribution titled Lance Henriksen: Profile And Measures Of The Millennium Man as well as Images Of Millennium [Season One].

Star Trek: The Original Series. Of course I did come through with more of the beloved Star Trek: The Original Series and with that flawless cast and it's infinitely re-watchable tales. More insanely hot women certainly never hurts. Good grief those women were hot! Of course, less entertaining, but just as interesting was our occasional look at Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One.

Farscape. I also fulfilled the promise of more Farscape with our continued look at Season One. My intention is to analyze that first season in its entirety and then jump around a bit going forward as Season Two has been disappointing with the exception of a handful of episodes.

UFO. Although we never got back to the Space:1999 run we did continue our FAB FRIDAY journey through the wonderful first and only season of its Gerry Anderson predecessor, UFO, starring a whole host of hunky leads and sex kittens. Oh, and, lest we forget, a good bit of storytelling too. We even squeaked in one episode of Thunderbirds.

The Six Million Dollar Man. The new year, now the old year, also saw us introduce some of the classics from the 1970s in the form of The Six Million Dollar Man. Lee Majors was a major role model and this series was truly one of a kind. Like those wonderful corresponding toys, they just don't make them like this anymore.

The Incredible Hulk. Speaking of role models, Bill Bixby was another one who really captured a value system not unlike my own both in his performance as Tom Corbett on The Courtship Of Eddie's Father and in one of the finest superhero adaptations in television history with The Incredible Hulk by Kenneth Johnson. Both series lasted three and five seasons respectively and remain unforgettable and terrific viewing despite the more restrictive television boundaries of the day.

Fire In The Sky & Signs. Fire In The Sky and Signs have to be two of my favorite films from the science fiction genre checked out in 2010. I even took some time later to go back and add some additional production information for those interested on Fire In The Sky. Of course, we even highlighted some of the most frightening stills from the alien abduction sequence of that film too.

Soldier. I did also deliver on my promise to cover the Paul W. S. Anderson film Soldier. It was a generally solid piece of science fiction and probably one of Anderson's more thoughtful works if that makes sense.

Cujo. Looking back at the release of Stephen King's Cujo to Blu-Ray was a hoot and easily holds up today. It's definitely a film that deserves recognition as one of the better King adaptations. And speaking of frighteners, we took in the Halloween treat that was Lance Henriksen in the wicked Pumpkinhead.

I intended to bring you some Stargate Atlantis this year as well as The X-Files and that never quite materialized, though I never planned on it at the beginning of the year. So, though I did not get those series completed I did decide to look at some films from the alumni of those productions. House Of D directed by David Duchovny was a delight, while A Dog's Breakfast starring David Hewlett was an amusingly unexpected treat. Sadly, Joe Flanigan's Ferocious Planet is worth the pass. We'll see if we can't get back to Stargate Atlantis for 2012.

Stargate SG-1. We [me, myself and I] did however get to look at the milestone moment that was Stargate SG-1 Children Of The Gods offering an in-depth look at both the original version and the final cut version of that series introduction.

We also had a chance to finish off a laborious look at a Doctor Who classic in Genesis Of The Daleks. More importantly, the year saw us bid goodbye to a host of personalities including the lovely Doctor Who companion and star of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Elisabeth Sladen. She was a rare television personality with an unusually brilliant career trajectory.

Personally, looking back is a nice way to say farewell to how I spent some of my time over the year, recharge, re-evaluate and consider where I'm going with this endless thing called a blog.

The blog - It's a bit like a hamster wheel. I get in it and I run, but where am I going? I know it goes round and if I get on it it's going to be like, "Look kids! Big Ben, Parliament."

I definitely have some plans to continue work on one project I've been going at for a period in 2010. I need to get back to that and see if I can bring it to fruition. That's one of my New Year's resolutions. I'm really quite hopeful. As a result, my writing here may be spotty. I hope not and I will make every effort to balance both, but with limited time something has to give. I stumbled upon my horoscope while watching the neighbor's dog and getting their newspaper at the end of the driveway. It said to me, and not that these things are incredibly profound, "Working effectively toward a long-term goal means sometimes forgoing opportunities for pleasure and fun." Yeah. True.

So what concoctions are in store for 2012? Well, I definitely plan to bring you more of what visitors appreciate here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic - I think vibrant, colorful, thoughtful entries! Anime including Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind and potentially Neon Genesis Evangelion, The Fourth Kind, Communion, Prometheus, Star Trek: The Original Series, Battlestar Galactica [the Glen A. Larson original], Doctor Who, Farscape, more FAB FRIDAY surprises including UFO and hopefully Space:1999, The Incredible Hulk, a look at Season One of The X-Files, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 with more world according to Jack O'Neill moments.

So, yes, I may not write quite as much, but I won't stop trying to have that "pleasure and fun" writing right here. Let's face it, it may be like the hamster in that hamster wheel. I may not know where I'm going and it may be nowhere, but I like running inside that wheel too. The pleasure is undeniable. Here's looking at 2012. All the best.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

... 2009. 2010. 2011. 2012. Feeling beaten, battered or bewildered after 2011? It certainly wasn't the easiest year. Rei knows a thing or two about having it tough. It seems like every year Rei takes a beating in Neon Genesis Evangelion as the pilot of an Evangelion, yet she's always putting everyone before herself.

May 2012 be your year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping [3rd Pilot]

This was originally titled The Billion Dollar Snatch. A great title with a unique connotation in certain niche markets, but not for our hero The Six Million Dollar Man.

Pre-dating the ski scene from Roger Moore's 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me [1977].The final of three pilot films for The Six Million Dollar Man arrived in November 1973 just shy of a series debut in January 1974.

As luck would have it executive producer Glen A. Larson stuck around for his second pilot film following Wine, Women And War. The Solid Gold Kidnapping would also be Larson's last for the series. Larson's 007 approach to the character is in full evidence with an opening action sequence, explosions and Steve Austin romancing a blond lover. Although this time their clothes are on. Lee Majors sexual encounter with Britt Ekland in Wine, Women And War undercover and under the covers would be his first and last for the series.

Nevertheless, Larson relished sponsoring the fashioning of an American version of James Bond in Lee Majors. He had made steps toward moving the tone of the series from the more dour Pilot [a.k.a. The Moon And The Desert] into secret agent territory with Wine, Women And War. The Solid Gold Kidnapping while capitalizing on that concept the third pilot also exhibits the fruits of a rapid growth in chemistry between principals Lee Majors and Richard Anderson. The two make the most of their time together and allow a little levity to slip into their roles. The third pilot film seems somewhere between the first executive-produced Larson outing and the series official debut, Population Zero. It's apparent a softening is occurring to the relatively hardcore approach taken with the Steve Austin character initially in that first pilot.

Remember, up until the third film, the creators and writers had already introduced a bionic man to an unsuspecting audience who attempted suicide, exhibited deep signs of emotional instability, a remoteness to intimacy with the opposite sex, a willingness to wipe out the enemy at the drop of a hat, disdain for his superiors and a discomfort in his own skin. That's a heavy dose of angst for its time. Clearly the debut pilot was fairly unconventional fair in 1973. Could it sustain an audience at that level going forward? Many of the suits had their doubts and saw to it the concept began to evolve and move toward a lighter tone.

Larson himself had already made efforts to move The Six Million Dollar Man left of the Pilot and away from writer Martin Caidin's original plan for the character based on his book Cyborg. Larson's memories of Caidin are colorful according to author Herbie J. Pilato in The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar Man & The Bionic Woman Reconstructed. "Martin was an off-the-wall character,... sort of a CIA groupie." Larson continued, "He was a fascinating character." But Larson felt Caidin "didn't know television very well. ... authors will sometimes cling to those words. It happens." The Solid Gold Kidnapping would be Larson's final outing as he handed the reins over to executive producer Harve Bennett for the weekly 60 minute serial beginning with Population: Zero.

The third telefilm, The Solid Gold Kidnapping, opens with the same credits that can be found noted in Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic's coverage of Wine, Women And War. The vintage era opening theme, Six Million Dollar Man, by vocalist Dusty Springfield would also be its last appearance.

Where Wine, Women And War featured Britt Ekland. The third film guests John Vernon from Animal House, as the Bondian villain, as well as Terry Carter who would later figure regularly on Glen A. Larson's Battlestar Galactica [1978-1979].

As mentioned, the wonderful Richard Anderson returns as Oscar Goldman [director of the OSI] and Larson had some glowing words on the actor regarding his importance to the world of The Six Million Dollar Man mythology. "I cast Richard Anderson because when you're doing what I call a bullshit premise, you need to surround it with as much honesty and reality as you can. Richard brought us that credibility. It was less likely that the series was going to end up as a cartoon." Ironically, as we discover with this third telefilm, the science fiction aspect does tend to dip off the reality scale to a degree, despite Larson's point. Later, Kenneth Johnson [The Incredible Hulk] would infuse the premise with his usual dose of reality and grace.

The action pacing is classic The Six Million Dollar Man with fist fights and Colonel Steve Austin in action minus the still missing slow motion, but the locale is James Bondian-like Switzerland. In that, the only thing missing from The Six Million Dollar Man is a Sean Connery accent. Seriously, how's this for Action Austin?

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Mexico, London Heathrow Airport and you start to get the jet-setting nature of what is established beyond what was originally conceived for the character.

Essentially, Austin saves one ambassador from Mexico. A short time later, another is kidnapped. The ransom is, you guessed it, solid gold. To aid in finding the ambassador, Dr. Erica Bergner has been experimenting with brain cell transference to tap into a dead man's memories to gain insight into the captors. Science fiction or Glen A. Larson disapproved "bullshit"? Now, actually, the science fiction portion of it isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility, but how it's presented here is not sound in science to be sure.

Ultimately, The Solid Gold Kidnapping, apart from its silly title, offers the first evidence that the Austin character is endowed with the kind of humor that would become a staple for the character in the ongoing series. James Bond trappings aside, this particular adventure feels a little closer to the character we would come to know and love, but it's still off from the vintage series we recall so fondly complete with those slow motion bionics. The trademark slo-mo and classic theme arrive with the launch of the bionic serial.

The Solid Gold Kidnapping: C+. Writer: Larry Alexander/ Alan Caillou. Director: Russ Mayberry.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2

I got to thinking as I watched Charles Schulz' animated Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Christmas and I looked into the sweet eyes of Charlie Brown and Snoopy that they were very much the American antithesis of those Japanese anime eyes. Gosh, they are so tiny. Still, Schulz created something special in his own right. That's all. Have a great Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Prometheus Trailer

In space no one can hear you scream.

I rarely take time to express an opinion on film trailers. One of the last ones I actually took time to reflect briefly upon was James Cameron's Avatar. I wasn't anticipating much then based on the upcoming visual experience. Mind you, sitting in the theatre was a much different experience and the film generally delivered, but the latest from Ridley Scott, Prometheus [2012], promises so much more for this fan of true science fiction.

The return of director Ridley Scott for Prometheus has arrived in the form of a trailer and I must say I am over the moon in anticipation and the kind of giddy excitement I recalled experiencing when I saw the trailer for James Cameron's Aliens back in the day.

I cannot recall the last time a trailer thrilled me quite as much as the latest from Ridley Scott. If nothing else, Scott is always visually impressive generating taut suspense and atmospheric thriller after thriller, but as we know today he has always been so much more. I am an unabashed fan of the man's work and judging by the offering here I am going to love this film. It is pure science fiction drug to me.

Prometheus may or may not be the sequel people expected or had been waiting for, but in truth it looks like it reaches far beyond expectations. There's of course that sense of haunting eeriness that the tag line of Alien promised in 1979, that no one could hear you scream, and yet it looks to embrace the thrill of Aliens and horror of Event Horizon in a completely refreshing Scott Free package all its own.

Throw in sexy Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce and Michael Inglorious Bastards Fassbender and it has the cocktail ingredients for something truly special.

Seeing this trailer was a bit like Welcome to Ridley's World and a return to how quality science fiction should be done.

If the promise of Prometheus is anything like its trailer, for me personally, Prometheus will be hands down one of the best science fiction films made in years. It looks incredible and incredibly frightening. I, for one, cannot wait for June 2012.